Shot in black and white over just twelve days and using his own house as the location, Whedon edited the film on a laptop during lunch breaks whilst doing post-production work on The Avengers. He even composed the movies musical score.
With all that in mind, the film is something of a triumph, for it does not appear rushed or cheap. The black and white photography lends the movie a timeless feel and Whedon coaxes wonderful performances from the actors – who will be familiar to those who enjoyed Dollhouse and Firefly.
Amy Acker as Beatrice gives the standout performance, but all the cast rise to the occasion well. The film sticks to the Shakespearean text and as someone who doesn’t read Shakespeare, I found it difficult to follow in the beginning. Normally, I don’t go in for Shakespeare – I fell asleep during a production of Shakespeare in the Park, which my wife dragged me along to. Therefore, it came as something of a surprise that I found myself enjoying the film – which I’d taken the wife to see partly because I was curious to see what Whedon had made and partly because I knew she would like it.
I was impressed by how the performers made the dialog understandable and natural sounding – I’ve been to see Shakespeare plays where the dialog has been delivered in a kind of sing-song that I couldn’t follow.
The film is really funny in places with some fun slapstick comedy, but I even found myself enjoying some of the wordplay. It made me realise that Whedon is influenced by Shakespearean text, putting a modern spin on it with his witty dialog in Buffy, Firefly and Dollhouse. Nathan Fillion has a small turn as Constable Dogberry and he steals every scene he’s in, displaying a wonderful gift for clownish comedy.
Whedon is renowned for having ‘kick ass’ women in lead roles and he considers himself to be a feminist writer. I was interested in how he’d take on Much Ado About Nothing, especially the part where Hero is shamed in public for allegedly not being a virgin. He gets around this by making Claudio look a bit of an idiot – a man who is reactive rather than thinking things through.
I expected this to be too highbrow for a guy who enjoys a good Statham movie, but whilst I’m sure the film can’t match the RSC, I though the film worked really well as a screwball comedy. I wonder if a proper highbrow art critic would like the movie as much as I did?
Rating this film is a tough one because as a film in its own right, I’d give it a 6, but if you’re going to stay faithful to the Shakespearean text and the story then I cant really see how it could be improved upon. I’ll always watch something that involves Joss Whedon and it’s been ages since I’ve seen a genuinely good romantic comedy.
It is also a film that would benefit from a second viewing because (especially at the beginning) some people in the audience were chuckling, but the jokes were whizzing over my head because I couldn’t follow the dialog. That said, after ten or fifteen minutes I’d kind of adjusted and was following quite well.